Giclée Printing

FRan Beallor: Leap Frog

Giclée Printing by Fran Beallor. I am pleased to introduce Fran Beallor’s guest blog article on giclée printing. The article contains in-depth knowledge of the giclée fine art digital print — choosing which image to use, deciding upon the size of the print, finding a printer, how many prints to print, choosing a substrate, pricing, copyright and more. Please enjoy and feel free to take notes.

Digital Fine Art Printing or Giclée (zhee-klay) is one of the newest forms of printmaking. Artists are using this exciting and flexible method of producing multiple prints to get their work out to broader audiences at more affordable prices.

Printmaking, the transferring of pigment to paper or other materials to produce multiple impressions, is valued for the unique qualities that each printmaking technique possesses.
Giclée printmaking allows artists to reproduce their work on demand or as needed, eliminating the storage problems that come with producing a large edition. Because the image is digitally archived, additional prints can be made with little effort, at a reasonable cost and archived files don’t deteriorate in quality. Another huge advantage of giclée is that images can be created in nearly any size, and onto a wide variety of substrates. This allows artists to customize prints for collectors and for site-specific installations.

Giclée prints are found in many museums and galleries around the world, including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim and MOMA in New York City, and many Chelsea galleries. Recent auctions of giclées at Phillips brought in $2,500 for a Chris Ofili, $9,600 for a Chuck Close and $25,000 for a Romero Britto.

About Giclée Fine Art Digital Prints
The term giclée was coined in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne, of Nash Editions (That’s Graham Nash of folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, who is also a photographer). In French “gicler” means to spray or squirt, which is how inkjet printers work.
However, sophisticated giclée printing machines are not like your little home printer. They are much bigger, have 8 to 12-color ink cartridges and they are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets.

But the biggest difference between a standard inkjet printer and a professional giclée printer is that giclée printers use archival, pigment-based inks rather than the dye-based inks found in lower cost inkjets. Pigment-based inks have a significantly longer life span. Cared for properly, using UV protective glass, and hung out of direct light, giclées can last anywhere from 100 to 200 years without significant fading. Some original watercolor paintings will fade faster than a well-made giclée printed on acid-free paper.

Using expert scanning, custom profiles and precise color correction, giclée printers spray millions of microscopic ink droplets onto a chosen substrate, rendering subtle gradations and many colors that would be out of range with other printmaking technologies. The more inks used, the more sophisticated the color range available with the image retaining all the tonalities and hues of the original artwork. Unlike other reproduction methods, each image is sent to the printer individually, which produces the slight color variations from piece to piece that fine art buyers and gallery patrons look for in limited edition artwork created using traditional methods, such as lithography and serigraphy. Thus, the quality of a giclée print rivals traditional printingmaking processes.

You’ve decided to publish an edition of giclée’s – where to start? Here are some things to think about:

Choosing Which Image to Use
Perhaps there is an image that you love or feel will have broad appeal. Maybe you want to see your image in different sizes, or on a new substrate. Some artists like to use images from work that has already sold – if the image sold easily or was popular, others may be interested in it, too.

You will need a professional quality, high-resolution digital file of your image, usually in Tiff or Jpeg format. The printer will let you know exactly what you file types they can accept and which will produce the best results. Your file will need to be at least 300dpi, and preferably more, to ensure that the final print has the sharpest detail. Don’t skimp when it comes to photographing your work for giclée – have it done by a trusted professional. A transparency, negative or slide can also be converted into a digital file.

Deciding on the Size of your Image
It may be interesting to try out an image in a different scale. Making your print smaller than the original is always an option, but making it bigger requires a large enough digital file.
It is important to remember when you publish a giclée that it will have to be framed with or without a mat, under glass if it is on paper. The larger the image, the more expensive the frame will be. Consider using an image that is a standard size, so that you can use more economical, ready-made frames and mats.

Finding a Printer
There are many printers all around the country doing giclée at this point. As with anything, prices and quality vary, so it is important to do your research – ask other artists and photographer friends for a recommendation, and ask lots of questions of the printmaker before you contract with them. If they use terminology that you don’t understand, be sure to ask for clarification. Your relationship with the printer is a business partnership, based on trust, but the transaction is based on the contract. You will be working together to create a work that fulfills your expectation. Feel free to ask for references.

Many printers offer additional services. They will create a proof for you so that you can make sure the colors are as accurate as possible, often for an extra charge. Some printers offer framing and/or mounting services and some will even offer marketing advice.
Where I live, in New York City, prices can be on the high side, so I found an excellent, reasonably priced, easy going printer, iolabs in Pawtucket, RI. Even with the shipping costs, it was still a great deal and I was thrilled with the results.

How many Prints in your Edition
In traditional media, such as etchings and lithographs, an edition consists of a number of prints struck from one plate or stone. These editions are usually pulled all at one time, since the set up, printing and clean up process is complicated and time consuming. One of the advantages of giclée is the ease of printing, allowing you to affordably print one at a time, as you need them.

A limited edition consists of a fixed number of impressions produced with the understanding that no further copies will be made at any point. Most modern artists produce limited editions, signed by the artist in pencil, and numbered. For example, 67/100 denotes the unique number of a print (67) and the total edition size (100).

Traditional print editions were limited because the plate would degrade after a number of prints were pulled. Part of the value of a limited edition comes from the fact that there can only be a certain number of prints and no more. Since giclée editions can be as large as you like with no loss in quality, the artist has an ethical obligation to print only the amount specified for a pre-determined edition. A smaller edition of up to fifty prints is considered more valuable, because it is more limited. But an edition of several hundred is still a reasonable size. Editions in the thousands are considered more commercial.

You can print just one giclée, which is a great convenience. Joe Farace writes in Giclée
Fine Art Printing Of Digital Images on, “(one of the beauties of giclée is that) you can test market a new image without committing to printing a large edition and paying for a great number of prints … giclée reproductions are the perfect medium for aspiring (artists and) fine art photographers … you can order just one print to frame and use as a display piece. As orders roll in, you can have others printed in large or small quantities.”

If you are ready to create more than one copy of your image, most printers offer volume discounts. For example, my printer offered a 20% discount on prints 2-5, 25% off 6-10, 30% off 11-20, etc. The more you print, the less each copy costs. In addition, many printers will let you print two or more smaller images on one sheet for the single-sheet price.

Choosing a Substrate
Giclée or fine art prints can be produced on many kinds of paper or on canvas. My print was done on a beautiful, thick, acid-free Bradford Rag Natural paper, 300 g/m² (paper weight is expressed in ‘grams per square meter’ – gsm or g/m²). Other archival choices include coated photo-based paper, as well as other textiles, aluminum, wood and plastic.
Fabio Braghi of Allpconline recommends, “In general, if giclée prints are reproductions of paintings or drawings, stay with the closest printing substrate. Originals on canvas should be reproduced on canvas … watercolor and drawings on smooth paper are best on non-textured media.”

But you may have a broader vision and wish to see your work in a new and exciting way, and that is certainly possible now.

How to Price your Giclée
The value of a giclée is considerably less than for an original oil or acrylic painting, and somewhat less than a drawing or watercolor, which is what makes it an excellent option to offer to collectors with low budgets, to donate for auctions for worthy causes, to give as gifts and in trade for services, etc.

My original oil, Suspended Animation, 24” x 30,” sold for $6,000, whereas the unframed giclée at 18” x 24,” is valued at $450. The cost of printing one 18” x 24” giclée was about $60.

Protect your copyright

Remember to be cautious when reproducing your work. You own the copyright to your image, until you give it away or sell it – make sure that you and your printer are aware of copyright laws.

Personalizing Your Image
Some artists embellish their prints with watercolor, colored pencil, pastel, etc. Hand coloring your print is a way of personalizing every image and turning a multiple into a one-of-a-kind artwork, increasing its value.

Final Thoughts
Media designer Ben Whitesell says, “The advantages to artists producing their work as a giclée print is that it can be created ‘on-demand’. Because the process is digital and does not require the larger numbers needed for an offset print order, or the time and cost that goes into traditional printing, it can be a good way for artists to produce their own prints rather than requiring (an agent or) a second party printer.”

So, get ready to take your printmaking destiny into your own hands as you take the plunge into the exciting world of giclée printing.

Fran Beallor: Suspended Animation

Fran Beallor: Suspended Animation

Suspended Animation 18” x 24” Limited Edition of 50 giclées by Fran Beallor

People really responded to my 18” x 36” oil, Leap Frog (featured image of the article) and it sold quickly, so I decided to create a giclée for a solo exhibition in Chelsea. The prints sell for $350 unframed.

Leap Frog 12″ x 24″ Limited Edition of 50 giclées by Fran Beallor (at the top)

Fran Beallor is a NYC artist who paints  “still lifes that are not so still,” as well as traditional figurative oils and watercolors with a contemporary twist, and most recently, giclée prints. Barbara Gallo Farrell, of the Poughkeepsie Journal writes: “Look closely at the paintings of Fran Beallor and you’re likely to see more than meets the eye. Her fanciful paintings … are intricately crafted … filled with details and colorful nuances.” To see more of Fran Beallor’s work, visit the links below:

Fran’ Beallor’s “Artist’s Profile” video:

8 thoughts on “Giclée Printing

  1. Hi, great post. ii’ve been painting digitally for 19 years (on canvas for 48yrs) and i have information that is somewhat different than the information in this article. epsom 2200 and the newer models use acrylic pigments that are not ink or dye. there is also a file format issue if you use painter, which i do. please email me if you are interested my long-term experience using this medium. i have shown and sold these prints for the past 10 years, generally i sell a 12×16″ print for $100 unframed. i print on 300 gm rag (moab entrada is my choice) and canvas. i prefer to print on my machine so i can use rif files. i’d like to speak with someone who has a larger format epsom that can print rif files. cheers!

  2. Thank you so much for your blog. It’s very informative,and helpful to artists who know little about the process.I have some images that have been very well received by visitors to a recent open studio event ,so I may do a bit of research before committing to a print run.

  3. Hi Fran, I read in your post above that the artist no longer owns the copyright of the work once the work is sold. My question is this…Can you legally sell prints of a work once the work is sold if you had the prints made prior to the sale?

    • Ann – I’m glad you asked this question, as it gives me a chance to clarify what I meant. When you sell or give away a painting (or work in any medium), you are NOT selling the copyright! You are only selling your art. You still own the copyright to your image, until you give away or sell THE COPYRIGHT itself. Therefore, even if you sold an artwork, you can still make a print of that image, as long as you have a photograph or a digital scan of the piece. The copyright remains with you.

  4. I write a blog talking about how I got into oil painting after retiring. I tell of my fears and my unbelief in myself in the beginning. I would like to ask you if you would put a guest blog on my blogsite.

  5. Thanks for clarifying the information on copyright Fran. I’m relieved at the answer as I’m sitting on several giclee prints of work that I’ve since sold! This is a great post by the way, very helpful and informative. Thankyou

  6. Hi, Fran! Very nice article. I am a traditional fine art painter that has switched to digital painting due to allergies and costs. I have been doing this for at least 5 years and absolutely love it. I have my paintings reproduced using a Giclee printer in Georgia (I live in Texas), mostly on canvas. They are beautifully reproduced from jpeg files. All my painting image files are set at the high resolution of 300 dpi, and they can be resized according to preference. My clients are very pleased with the finished art piece. I also do book illustrations, covers, etc. in digital formats. Although I have been invited to participate in various museum and art gallery shows, I still find that many do not accept digital art paintings. I do understand the complexities of the traditional artists views on this subject, but I also feel digital art is emerging on the horizon very quickly. I work just as hard creating a digital painting from scratch as I did when I painted hands on traditionally. Digital art is not just for photographers, or those who manipulate photos, but fine artists as well. Your article is very informative regarding reproduction of prints and gives welcomed knowledge to those who are pursuing digital art careers. Thank you.

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